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A good general contractor will have the right insurance policies in place. Check with your agent to verify that they have property damage and workers’ compensation coverage.
Ask for references and visit a local lumberyard to talk with contractors about their experience. The people who work on your project, called subcontractors and suppliers, can put mechanic’s liens on your home if they aren’t paid.
1. Get Referrals
Ask family, friends and neighbors for contractor recommendations and then get at least three clearly written estimates for the work you want done. Beware contractors who promise you the moon for a low price and aren’t willing to put it in writing.
Also, request the names of past clients and contact information to see how their project went. Call them to learn whether the project started and finished on time, was within budget and how well they worked with the contractor.
Check with local building inspectors to see if the contractor has been licensed and if their work meets local codes. Also, find out whether they have workers’ compensation and general liability insurance. Finally, pay attention to their communication style and look for professionalism, courtesy and respect.
2. Get Multiple Estimates
If you’re planning a remodel or renovation of your home, it’s important to get multiple estimates. This will help you find the best contractor for your project without overpaying.
A general contractor (GC) coordinates the work that’s done on a large construction project by hiring subcontractors to do the actual work. This includes the excavator, concrete sub, drywall and rough framing subs, roofer, plumbers, electricians, finish carpenters, painter, etc.
Before you hire a GC, ask how long they’ve been in business and if they’ve ever worked on a job of your size. Generally, longer experience means more expertise and better results. You should also ask about their communication style. Do they answer their phone or respond to email quickly? If not, they may not be the right contractor for you.
3. Ask for Proof of Licensing
Many states require general contractors to be licensed, with each having their own specific requirements. For example, in New Mexico, you must pass an exam, show a financial statement, and have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
Most GCs begin their careers as tradespersons in one area or another (carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, etc.). This experience helps them understand the ins and outs of all aspects of construction and allows them to oversee the quality control of subcontractors.
GCs also serve as the project manager, overseeing all activities on the job site and serving as the liaison in communicating with the client or architect on project activities. Typically, the GC will use a variety of specialty subcontractors who complete 80-90% of the work. These contractors must be bonded as well, with the bond covering any resulting damages.
4. Ask for Proof of Insurance
Ideally, the general contractor you hire will have years of experience with this type of project and will carry all the necessary licenses and permits to do the work. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau to see any complaints against them and how they resolved those issues.
If a worker gets hurt on your property and you hired someone who didn’t have insurance, then you could be held liable. Asking for a COI will help you avoid this type of situation.
The COI will list the legal name of the contractor, what types of coverage they have in place and their policy numbers and effective dates. It will also list you as the certificate holder – make sure it lists your correct address.
5. Ask for References
If you are going to spend money with a general contractor, it makes sense to ask for references. A good contractor will be happy to provide you with a list of past clients that you can contact.
When you call the references, make sure to be prepared with a list of questions. If the reference is hesitant to answer your questions or seems uncomfortable, it could be a red flag.
You should also ask the references how often the contractor communicated with them during the project, including emails, texts or phone calls. If the contractor didn’t keep in touch with the home owner, it might be a sign that they won’t do so well on your project.